To start off I have to start this out with something depressing. Over the last few months my Aunty has been getting increasingly sick. First kidney stones and now she’s tested positive for bowel cancer.
Her sister (My mother) rang up and asked me first for a home remedy for kidney stones until she can get some surgery to remove it because apparently it’s quite large. She needed it to shrink. This lead me to looking up two things:
- Me researching Aloe Vera more thoroughly, because my prior knowledge was limited. But I knew it had an awful lot of vitamins.
- Me researching Apple Cider Vinegar again. Again previous knowledge, I knew it could help break the stone up, which apparently it did indeed do just that.
Within a week of store bought aloe vera inner gel juice and the cider vinegar (taken separately) her stones were breaking up and passing yet she’d been dealing with it for at least 2yrs.
In the mean time I’ve been looking up other uses for Aloe Vera and I’ve discovered so much it’s just incredible. I’m simply amazed with it’s various uses.
One thing I want to mention straight off the bat about the “negative research results”. Those results were from experiments done with a concentrated extract, not the inner gel. This means all of it, the whole leaf. The sap wasn’t removed and most people that use it, wash it off and so you should, it is after all a well known irritant. I just wanted to mention this because I know someone might comment with concerns and don’t worry I looked thoroughly. I’m only talking about inner leaf uses in this post.
My mum for her own health, after all the stuff I looked up and researched about Aloe Vera, among many other things, implanted the idea in my had that I should follow this up and see about doing herbal medicine. And I just might because I enjoy it and remember it.
Also she now wants to try some fresh aloe vera for herself. But there is only one problem. The large aloe we have, I have yet to accurately identify it and as far as online help goes, everywhere and every professionals advise one key identifier and that is the check it’s flowers. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a local professional to look at it in person but I’m confident that if I can get it to flower, I’ll know exactly what it is.
So, I thought back. It’s never flowered. But it’s also never been this healthy in over 10yrs since we have had it. The current large aloe vera I have appears to me to be an Aloe Vera Barbandensis but there’s a slight chance it’s something else. So far it’s grown at an incredible speed. I thought I couldn’t rescue this one and previous reviews and advice didn’t help much. So this time I winged it and I’m glad I did.
First of all I repotted it to a better healthier pot and regular well draining potting mix. It went well. Very surprising. Then I repotted it again in a good quality Cactus mix from Bunnings and in a much larger and wider pot.
I am surprised at the depth of this one’s roots. Then I pulled off each and every pup that surfaced. It’s leaves were brownish, reddish, orange from sunburn. There was shrivelling dead leaves. I cut off all dead leaves and leaves with holes but I did this slowly. Not in one hit. I cut off one and waited for a new one to show then cut off another so on and so forth. In about two months for the FIRST time I had straight aloe vera leaves. Fresh new ones grew in and they were beautiful and healthy.
It was this very reason that I never thought it was an aloe vera. I had never, not once ever seen it grow straight leaves. They always curled. Even if the odd green one came, it curled.
Previously it was my Nan’s, then my mothers and now it’s mine. It has always been orange or curly. I’ve learned on my own that it was too dry. Too dry in summer, too wet in winter and not in a wide or deep enough pot. All the wrong things you can do to an aloe vera apparently.
By the time I got to it after the 5months of being homeless until they removed the tree from our house and we waited for it to be fixed, there was 5 of them smooshed together in the one pot by the time I got to it. And I didn’t touch it for the first few months of being home. It was a sad sight indeed. There was roughly one whole aloe vera for each month we were gone.
I had, before the storm hit, recently moved it under the Mulberry tree for shade and started caring for it and getting it green. When I came home I found it not only moved but the painters had WASHED their brushes over my aloe vera. I was raging! I mean honestly, how dare they!!
Anyway, I took the healthiest and started from there. This is where a mixture of fun and not so fun came into play.
At first after repotting it twice, the second time in the healthier potting mix, it started dying. I added a bit of compost and soy milk refuse and home made soy milk with a bit of water and it shot up several inches in a week. That’s how I discovered that aloe vera, despite popular belief, loves a bit of food.
But I didn’t want to over do it. Then for a while it was looking unhappy again so I moved it to just outside my front door. I like it there, it’s quite attractive. So now it gets a mix of full sun and passing shade.
I’ve been tending to it for a few months now. Around January this year so close to 5months of care. It’s no longer got holes. No longer has brown anything. It’s healthy all the way to the tips and it’s sprouting healthy pups.
Sometimes if I feel it needs it I feed it with a mix of Seasol and Power Feed diluted below the minimum recommended ration. I have it so the water just looks like filthy water, not dark like it can look and I serve it up in a regular empty water bottle. Roughly 600ml and pour it around the roots but not on the leaves. I read both of these feeders can burn leaves so yeah. I like to keep my water bottles for my yard since watering cans (can never find a tin one) always go brittle from sun damage. I am always leaving them outside. I can’t trust myself.
Right now, I am doing whatever it takes to get this thing to flower. My Aunty told me they flower in the summer which was a bit disappointing for me because well, it’s the end of Autumn right now. I’m hoping it might sprout a flower in spring.
This was the most difficult thing to find an answer too as well since all the Answers were for Americans whom asked this question. You would think with all the gardening groups and forums, at least one person in Australia grows them and can tell you. So far from what I can tell, a happy Aloe Vera will flower, a sad one won’t and it will flower when it wants to, not when you want it to.
So basically now all I have to do is keep an eye on it and feed it when it’s not looking as dark and green and lush. I think since reviving it, at first I feed it about 4 times in the first two months. I haven’t feed it in 3 months and it’s doing great. I don’t plan to feed it until it shows signs of need it.
Each feeding I gave it, I made it weaker and weaker. Almost like a nutritive weaning for a plant. The thing about aloe vera is it stores up so much of it’s own nutrients almost like it’s own personal reserves, which is what makes it so easy to over feed it just as it’s easy to over water it. Whatever you plan to feed your aloe vera, make sure it’s fairly week and doesn’t cause or increase moisture. For example, don’t put lots of tea leaves. They tend to keep your pot moist increasing chances of root rot.
I’ve learned a lot over the last 5months. I bought another Aloe from Bunning but it wasn’t labelled properly and turned out to be a hybrid that we can’t identify and though it says medicinal, it doesn’t mention if it’s topical only. I think it’s a hybrid of a Haworthia but I’m not totally sure because like I said, not labelled well. Being a hybrid, I think that’s an important peice of info to put on the tag.
Mine died though. I had it inside and the damned cat knocked it down 4 times. By the fourth time it died of plant shock. But now my big aloe is sprouting pups, I’ve found myself replanting those instead. Because even if it’s not the Aloe Vera Barbadensis that I want, it’s still a very attractive plant and I’ve enjoyed taking care of it. I like too that it’s safe to forget about it and it won’t be dead. I mean 10+ yrs of neglect has proven that.
Looking back I feel bad for not caring for it but I was a teenager and not interested. That and for some reason I only enjoyed growing tomatoes and chilli bushes. The latter being the strangest since I use to hate chillies and anything spicy. Loved growing the plant though. For me it was a great beginner plant. Mine grew as tall as me, 5ft. My cat, a ginger tabby, loved eating them fresh off the bush. He was so weird. If we brought them inside mum loved it when I left her chillies near the kettle. The damned cat would play with and then eat them by the time I turned my back.
But enough about that. When it comes to handling aloe vera, I’m serious about the lack of plant care. I not once with the exception of like a few rare times of watering it, when it was mums, none of us used to take care of it. We had no use for it and it was frequently forgotten about and my father didn’t know how to care for it so we did nothing with it.
We received it in around 2004 or 2005. And though it’s not the original, but a pup that grew and was replaced by another pup when the mature one died, it’s still alive. And I think that’s incredible.
I am fairly certain of what type it is now that it’s healthy. It’s white spots had me confused. I later found out that mature aloe has no spots but fresh or young aloe vera has white spots.
It’s the first time I ever saw it’s spots as well. But now as it matures the spots are fading which is making me relax a little. It’s also the thickest and the widest it’s ever been with healthy thorns and healthy tips. Previously the tips would be dead by a good inch or two.
Standing in the shallow pot, the Aloe now reaches my hips (which isn’t impressive considering I’m only 5ft tall). It’s never been so tall. This is also important to me to find out because it’s max height also tells me which spices of Aloe it might be.
Another thing I noticed that use to make me question if it was aloe vera, when it was healthy-ish and still a bit curly it’s leaves were always under 30cm no matter what was done to it. Opening it up it smelled strongly of onions. I looked this up and not one answer was given as to why or if it was not an aloe. Then I looked it up again this year. More and more people are saying theirs smells like onion as well. This information made me relax because these people had a proper aloe vera with their tag and experienced growers confirmed the type of aloe but everyone was baffled about it’s smell. Someone suggested it was root rot. So I kept that in mind.
Since repotting it in healthier soil and making it healthy it no longer smells strongly of onions and basically smelling disgusting. It does still have a similar smell but I’ve come to find it’s the natural smell of the green skin. Now that my aloe is healthy, it’s not so oniony but similar to onions if that makes sense. Before you cut it off and you’re like “Whooooa yuck”, you could smell it almost instantly. It was pungent and sickening and definitely not what you would want to put on your skin. Now if I cut a piece off, you have to hold it to your nose to smell it’s somewhat oniony smell. It’s very mild.
My only conclusion is, change the soil, your aloe is probably unhappy. And I doubt it’s the sap. I have actually gotten more sap, even from same sized leaves as from when it was small and it still smells better than my old sad aloe. And a healthy aloe is a dark to medium green. I’ve come to find if it’s going pale and feels mushy it’s over watered and under fed. A healthy aloe should also be firm and thick with no marks.
I’ve also come to find that “bitter” aloe is smelly. In some way or another it’s smelly in a “fresh greens” kind of way, but it shouldn’t be pungent. If it’s pungent, it’s not very healthy. And to clarify that I mean your plant is unhealthy, I don’t mean it’s going off or going bad, it just needs some treatment if it’s smelling funky after you cut it up.
I also found out that although it’s self healing, you can still put your plant in shock. Though difficult to do with aloe vera, it’s still very possible. So, with that in mind don’t thrash your aloe if you repot it. Whilst researching and watching a few (hundred) videos on Youtube, I came across some very rough gardeners. So… handle with care. It is a living thing after all.
All that rambling aside, I’ve had an interesting year with aloe vera and learning all about it. I’m also going to continue growing it. From past experiences, I’ve noticed aloe vera tends to choke itself with it’s pups so if anyone that knows me, wants some free aloe vera, mine seems to be making 1-4 a week right now 😉 But seriously, if you see pups, take them and move them because it gets big fast and eventually chokes the mother plant.
Lately just because of the flowers and how tall it gets I’ve been considering getting Aloe Vera Ferox. I really like those red flowers and some of the photo’s I’ve seen of it looking like a small tree makes me think it might be a good plant to grow along side one of my fences for a bit of extra privacy and to attract some more birds.
But there’s a few things about it that puts me off. I read somewhere about someone having red sap or dark sap coming out of theirs and causing irritation and I do so very much like to get into my garden without gloves on (very bad of me I know). And if I’m going to dive in and get grazes I really don’t want any irritation to go with it. Buuuut knowing me I’ll likely get a baby one and try and grow it. But again, my front yard might not be best unless it’s in a pot considering how soggy our soil can get. Only one way to find out though right?
That’s the funniest thing with aloe vera, it’s inner clear gel heals and treats itching and scrapes yet it’s thorns and yellow saps grazes and causes itching and in some people inflammation on the skin which I later found out to be a latex allergy. Me personally, no irritation to the aloe I have, or it’s natural latex. But I frequently graze myself on it’s thorns. I’m clumsy that way. Just with what I’ve heard about it being more potent, it just worries me a little. I don’t like handling things that can cause itching or effect sensitive skin.
After all I wrote and rambled about, I think it’s time to end this post or it will go on even longer. Because honestly I could keep talking about it and my new found experiences. What I would like to end this with is, I have found a website of an Australian herbal nursery and they happen to supply medicinal aloe vera. Tomorrow I plan to buy two pots of it. One for myself and one for my Aunty. Wish me luck guys and when I get it, I’ll make a post and with photo’s this time. I might update this with some photo’s but no promises.